SINGAPORE: The late former chief justice Yong Pung How was "one of Singapore’s finest sons", said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (Jan 9) in a letter of condolence to Mr Yong's wife.
Mr Yong died on Thursday at the age of 93.
In a letter dated Jan 9 addressed to Mrs Yong, Mr Lee said the former top judge made major contributions to the nation, helping to set up the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, as Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore and as chief justice.
Describing Mr Yong as one who believed deeply in investing in people, Mr Lee said the former chief justice "took a personal interest in recruiting and mentoring promising young lawyers".
“He regularly visited university campuses to identify the ablest law students and encourage them to apply to become Justices’ Law Clerks," said the Prime Minister.
"Some have since become Judges of the Supreme Court and senior officers in the Legal Service.
"They speak of him with great affection and fondness, recalling his verve and vigour for life, and the wit and erudition in the stories he loved to tell around the lunch or dinner table," he wrote in the letter.
“Those lucky enough to have worked directly with him remember with gratitude the deep interest he took in their lives, and his quiet efforts to look after the welfare of long-serving staff when they retired."
During Mr Yong’s last few weeks in the hospital, his former law clerks were among his most regular visitors, said Mr Lee.
MR YONG GREETED LATECOMERS PERSONALLY
Mr Yong left his "deepest mark" in the judiciary, said Mr Lee.
In order to encourage judges and magistrates to start hearings on time, Mr Yong would occasionally appear at the former Subordinate Courts at 8.30am to greet latecomers personally, described Mr Lee.
"Punctuality miraculously improved," he added.
Mr Lee also mentioned the "close personal friendship" between Mr Yong and his father, Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who were schoolmates at Cambridge University.
"Mr Yong and Mr Lee were close friends all their lives.
"It was a friendship based on mutual respect, forged in their fight against colonialism, and reinforced by their shared commitment to build this nation," Mr Lee said.
Mr Lee said that even in old age, his father and Mr Yong enjoyed each other’s companionship, and would often have meals together.
"My thoughts are with you and your family during this time of sorrow and loss," Mr Lee said in the letter.